South Korea Legalizes Medical Marijuana

In a major development for the cannabis industry, South Korea legalized medical marijuana — though with many restrictions. It's the first country in East Asia to legalize weed and only the second Asian country to do so.

What Happened

South Korea's National Assembly voted on amendments to the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs that would allow non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical marijuana.

Patients will be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, an organization that allows access to rare medicines.

The approvals are provided on a case-by-case basis and necessitate a prescription.

The recent vote follows a July decision of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which said it would allow the cannabis-based drugs Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

Why It's Important

The vote on a cannabis law by the National Assembly is a major step in a relatively conservative country: South Korea still has some of the toughest rules regarding recreational cannabis. Citizens risk prosecution for cannabis consumption even if they are visiting countries where marijuana use by adults is legal.

What's Next

Two other countries in the region are also moving toward legalization.

Earlier this month, the Thai National Legislative Assembly submitted some proposed amendments that would legalize medical marijuana and a locally known plant, kratom.

In September, Malaysia also expressed interest in pursuing legalization of cannabis for medical use.

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